Andrew ScholerComputer Science program chair
Office HoursSalem campus
Building 37 Room 127
Winter Term 2015
No Thursday office hours
What is Computer Science?
"Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes."Despite its name, much of computer science is not focused on the study of computers themselves. Computer science spans a wide range of topics, from its theoretical and algorithmic foundations to cutting-edge developments in robotics, computer vision, intelligent systems, bioinformatics and other areas. What these different areas of study all have in common is a focus on studying ways to solve problems through computation with algorithms. (An algorithm is simply a step by step process for solving a problem.)
Computer science students generally go on to do one of two things professionally:
- Design and implement software - using their training to develop new computer applications
- Develop new ways to use computers either doing either pure or applied research
This work can be done in any field where being able to process large amounts of information is valuable. Individuals and companies have applied the techniques from computer science to just about every field of study and every area of commerce. From medicine to banking to sports analytics to linguistics and history, computation has provided tools that have changed the way we understand the world and interact with it and with each other.
Although computer scientists must develop a solid understanding of the machines we depend on to do computations for us, the design of computers and computer (hardware) systems is generally considered the province of disciplines other than computer science - computer or electrical engineering. Similarly, the study of computer science does not address essential questions about how a particular business should configure its network or what software it should rely on - those questions are the domain of information systems or information technology.
The five academic areas most closely associated with computers are:
Computer Science (CS): A discipline focused on the study of the nature and characteristics of computation (which at it's core is the study of the nature and characteristics of algorithms). What can we compute? How can we compute it? How efficiently can we do so?
Software Engineering (SE): An engineering discipline focused on the application of professional engineering practices to the design and construction of reliable software systems. A SE degree generally has many of the same courses as a CS program, but focuses more on industry practices and project development courses in the upper division courses. At many schools SE is a track within a CS program while at other schools it is a separate degree.
Computer Engineering (CE): Computer engineering is concerned with the design and construction of computers and computer-based systems. It involves the study of hardware, software, communications, and the interaction among them. It is a relatively recent outgrowth of electrical engineering (at some schools CE is a track within an EE program) that focuses on applying the principles of electrical engineering to the design of computers and computer-based devices (cell phones, navigation devices, entertainment consoles, etc...)
Information Technology (IT): In academia, IT refers to programs that prepare students to meet the computer technology needs of business, government, health care, schools, and other kinds of organizations. IT specialists assume responsibility for selecting hardware and software products appropriate for an organization, integrating those products with organizational needs and infrastructure, and installing, customizing, and maintaining those applications for the organizationís computer users.
Information Systems (IS): Information Systems, like Information Technology focuses on the use of technology to meet the needs of organizations. But where IT tends to focus on the technology, IS emphasizes information and business applications of it. Professionals in the discipline are primarily concerned with the information that computer systems can provide to aid an enterprise in defining and achieving its goals, and the processes that an enterprise can implement or improve using information technology.